Renewing Indigenous Relations in Canada through Renewable Energy

Greg PoelzerSymposium with Greg Poelzer

At the recent Paris meetings on climate change, Canada committed to a global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius. In parallel timing, one week prior to COP21, the Premier of Saskatchewan—the largest per capita emitter of CO2 in Canada — outlined its goal to increase the province’s use of renewable energy to 50% and reduce greenhouse emissions by 40% within 15 years. Achieving these policy goals requires building new power production facilities and new transmission corridors for that power. Much of the power production and transmission, however, will invariably be on or across Indigenous traditional lands.

Globally, the creation of renewable energy production facilities and transmission lines often has proven to be a source of considerable tension and conflict between Indigenous communities and government authorities. But, this does not have to be the case. To the contrary, renewable energy may represent one of the most important opportunities for Indigenous peoples in Canada, and elsewhere, to build partnerships on a nation-to-nation basis that will have enormous benefits to both Indigenous communities and to the broader society. This presentation outlines how Saskatchewan has emerged, quietly, on forefront of how to develop renewable energy through partnerships with First Nations and other Indigenous peoples.

Greg Poelzer is Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability (University of Saskatchewan) and Founding Director of the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development. He is currently a Fulbright Arctic Initiative scholar (May 2015 to October 2016).  Greg was the former Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the University of the Arctic (2003-2008), and currently leads the UArctic Northern Governance Thematic Network. Greg is a political scientist by training, and his research focuses on comparative public policy as it relates to Indigenous-state relations, capacity-building, renewable energy, resource economies, and sustainable development in sub-Arctic regions. His first book (co-authored), Arctic Front: Defending Canada in the Far North (2008), was awarded the 2009 Donner Prize for excellence and innovation in Canadian public policy writing. His second book (co-authored), From Treaty Peoples to Treaty Nation: A Road Map for All Canadians is shortlisted for the 2016 Donner Prize, Dafoe Prize, J.W. Dafoe Prize, and Saskatchewan Book Award. He has served as an advisor and negotiator on Aboriginal relations to the Government of Saskatchewan, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and SaskPower. Off-campus, he can be found canoeing in the many lakes and rivers of Saskatchewan or hunting with his Large Munsterlander, Gus, for Saskatchewan’s finest game birds.